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Thu. 15 September

Lighten up! [. . .] For God's sake, I'm having a good time! [. . .] hey, yesterday all on my own I found my rink and I went skating, a beautiful rink, too. And this morning, so far, everything worked: I got up at the right time; packed everything; paid the hotel with a VISA card; got to the station dragging my half-wheelless suitcase and lugging the other plus the detachable part of the black one separately (didn't want to try reassembling it); got my ticket (a special window because the trip combines F.S. and other trains, I think) for 13,100₤; and am quietly sitting down, not standing up, in a rather sinister and grungy-looking though clean as trains go car on the train for Ancona, preparing to get off at Foligno, quick change for Perugia, slow change for Todi. Since my ticket is for Ponte Rio? supposedly a change in train station is not required in Perugia: but of that, having done P. Rio — Perugia S. Giovanni last year, I'm less sure and will check on arriving in Perugia. . . .

In all this, I've had no breakfast or food of any kind and I'm hungry, but so what, really.

Behind me across the aisle to my right, two men (mostly one, as is often the case) speaking Russian: it really is good to have them back onboard the human race. In front of me across the aisle, a Chinese I think couple, the man with his leg slung over the armrest — woman rather pretty. Couple across from me, Italian, looking disapproving. Behind the Chinese, a group of 3 Spaniards of whom I see only the woman, rather tired and dour-looking. Your typical European train. We've just pulled out.


Spoleto train station, pulling out. Notice I'm struggling a bit to stay awake. After Rome, a bit — not much — of plain, olive trees and dry red soil; followed by lots of tunnels, several of them over a minute long, thru pine and eucalyptus. Stops at Orte and Narni — did not see the arch Spoleto has encroached on the plain with unhappy results. Just after Orte, on the left, there was an Orvietolike town perched on a butte with sheer rock drops and a big church although not of course as interesting as Orvieto's: a striking scene anyhow.1

The Russians turn out to be visiting geologists from Академгородок,º we (one of them and I) talked of various things in a mix of English, French and Russian; tall, florid-complected grey-haired man about 10 years older than me, suitcases full of rocks. . . . much intrigued by my office by modem — said that the best by far, most reliable and cheapest, method of communication out of Russia was e‑mail ultimately via Internet; told me that — "in theory" (as I'd been saying about Todi) — I could work from Russia, too.


7:45 P.M. and settling down into my first evening at home in Todi.

My arrival in Todi was supposed to be by a combination of three trains: Rome - Foligno - Perugia - Todi.a However, today was national strike day for public transportation, which oddly didn't affect the national train service, but did affect the line from Perugia to Todi which is private: so I took a cab from Perugia all the way to Todi, 80,000₤ plus a fairly hefty tip since the cab driver called around, talked with the agency, arranged for Signora Galletti to meet me at the apartment, and then spent a good deal of detours to get downtown, due to street repairing, complicated, as I understand it, by their having found a Roman road underneath it all.

Mrs. Galletti's name doesn't appear on the bell but I was assured by a Todi cabdriver friend of the Perugia driver that yes, she lived around here; sure enough, within 10 minutes she appeared; pleasant and casual, a native of the area, lived in Todi for 40 years.

[image ALT: zzz]
Taken 2 months later, on the day I left.
The IGM military staff maps on the floor are now well wrinkled and marked up.

The apartment is a largish one-bedroom with tile floors, totally modern; the building may be a palazzo Rinascenza all it wants — a charming ancient-looking courtyard with trailing vines several stories tall and a pottery maker discreetly tucked into a ground floor studio — but inside the apartment it could be anywhere. Super-clean, everything seems to run beautifully, bed thoughtfully made, coffee and sugar left in the kitchen, dishes, glasses, sheets, blankets, towels, a television.

Payment of the remainder of what I owed for the apt. (1½ mos. at 800,000₤ plus a million lire in advance on the phone = 2,150,000₤; I remembered 900,000₤ and had paid ½ month at 450 ML, but Mrs. Galletti is the one renting after all, so that was a happy surprise) was easy. Mrs. Galletti took me to the almost adjacent bank, where they know her, and 2150 ML was easy to withdraw on my card.

I then went back, unpacked, and went to lunch at the Ristorante Umbriaº with the terrace view that James and I didn't eat in (or at least not on the terrace due to poor weather, I don't remember which) last year; and had a delightful meal at a little table on the vine- and campsis-shaded terrace overlooking a quarter of Umbria, with geraniums and sedum in pots on the balcony by perfect weather, 72° and partly cloudy but bright and blue sky behind the clouds. I had a zuppa etrusca (a gruel-thick mix of I don't know what with a dash of olive oil and a sprig of arugula, and very good); polenta ai funghi porcini, excellent; cool slices of tongue with green sauce — nice — and a side order of fagiolini which I thought would be small beans but instead were string beans: they looked awful, like Army food, but were wonderful: olive oil, maybe the tiniest touch of garlic possibly not, lemon. Dessert: tozzetti al vin santo; tozzetti are crunchy almond cookies. Wine: Polidoro, a Colli altotiberini, quite good. Sitting there I felt like I was living Enchanted April; I'm not exactly not expecting similar results on me, actually. I only drank ½ the wine, asked them to keep it for me for lunch tomorrow.

Back to the apartment, rather unexpectedly fell asleep — wearing my cow sweatshirt — but not before answering the door, a young man named Antoniani (Antonini?) from the agency checking that everything was OK, apologizing for there not having been anyone there, I said, as is true, there was no need, all is fine, thank you.

Woken up just before six by a call from the French Consulate General in Chicago who (Mr. Serrot Almeras) wanted me to interpret for a delegation of politicos from Lyon, failing which I sent them to Theboul and Corinne Fortunato in that order.

So went back out to see what I could do in the way of shopping. A scale for $55, then a tank-up ⅔ of the way down the Corso Cavour on the essentials needed to set up house: detergent (some clothes right now noisily grinding around in the washing machine in the bathroom another happy surprise), dish soap, toilet paper, eggs, yogurt, pasta, olive oil, grapefruit juice, tea, biscottes, 2 kinds of jams, a small pocket notebook, shaving cream, etc. 50 ML on the dot, or pretty much what it would have cost in the U. S.; and this in a little corner store.

Also dropped in at the Azienda, who told me there is a rink at Ussita, a place in Macerata province: this is even harder to get to than yesterday's rink in Fratocchie (Marino). On the other hand, the last connection out of Rome back to Todi seems to be late enough to go skating in Marino at the 5 P.M. session:

Roma Termini 2030
Terni 2130 autobus
Todi P. Rio 2318
also M-S
1835 1725
1936 train 1834 autobus
2038 1928

which may be useful for Sat./Sun. skating even if that means half the day on trains and ending the day with a walk in the dark from Ponte Rio; maybe a deal can be worked out with a cab to pick me up at the 11:18 P.M. arrival at Ponte Rio. I'll probably try the whole thing Monday.


Note in the Diary:

1 Note 9/17: from map, probably Amélia.

Note for the Web (2002): Amelia is not visible from the train. What I saw was the actual town of Orte. The Orte train station is in Orte Scalo, the lower town, about 3 km away.

Later Note for the Web:

a Here I innocently record something that should never have been. At the very beginning of my first long stay in Umbria, I didn't know my way around and a ticket agent in Rome made me take three trains, go nearly 100 km out of my way, and pay for the privilege.

The proper way to get to Todi from Rome is 2 trains: Rome - Terni - Todi. There would still have been the matter of the strike on the FCU line (which goes from Terni to Todi to Perugia to Sansepolcro in Tuscany), but I ought to have got to Todi about 2 hours earlier and about 10,000 lire cheaper.

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Page updated: 1 Feb 10